Things That Matter

Cuban Man Sentenced To 14 Years For Kidnapping And Extortion Of Undocumented Immigrants

The man who led a group of criminals to prey on and kidnap undocumented women and children in an extortion scheme has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a federal judge. Francisco Betancourt, a Cuban immigrant, led a group of other Latino, Spanish-speaking men to target Central American immigrants, who had just arrived, disoriented, at bus stops in New York City, seeking to be reunited with their families. Betancourt would use his Latinidad to gain the immigrants’ trust, then, steal their bus tickets, and coerce them to get into a cab that would ultimately cost their families well over $1,000 in “cab fees.”

District Attorney Judge John H. Durham announced Thursday that Betancourt was sentenced in New York, New York by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill to 168 months of imprisonment in the Bridgeport facility, followed by three years of supervised release. Betancourt will be 84 years old by the time he is released from prison.

Francisco Betancourt conspired with three other Latino men to carry out the kidnappings of primarily young mothers with children.

Credit: @TheWomensWatch / Twitter

“The victims included women, men, and children from Central American countries who did not speak English and were seeking asylum in the U.S,” according to a statement by the US District of Connecticut Attorney’s office. “Some of the victims planned to travel from New York to Connecticut. Telling the victims that a connecting bus was not available and that they would provide transportation, Betancourt and others coerced the victims into vehicles. The co-conspirators would then drive the victims around, sometimes for hours, and refused to release them until they or their families agreed to pay the co-conspirators an exorbitant amount of money, on average more than a $1000.”

Betancourt used his Latinidad to victimize fellow immigrants.

Credit: @migrantfreedom / Twitter

Betancourt allegedly fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift that famously aided a mass emigration of Cubans in the 1980s. Prosecutors allege that Betancourt was one of the prisoners, convicted of theft, that Castro ejected from the island and put on a ship with other freed inmates and mentally ill people to Mariel, Florida. Betancourt has served two prison sentences in the United States since his arrival. 

His victims were often young women traveling with children. They were nearly at the end of a long, treacherous journey, often having traveled from their dangerous homes in Central America, through Mexico, and past the U.S. border. Once granted asylum, or strapped with tracking ankle devices, border authorities put them on a bus from the border to New York City. Days of traveling later, they have one more bus to catch before being reunited with family.

At times, Betancourt’s co-conspirators would pose as immigration officers to further intimidate the victims.

Credit: @icegov / Twitter

Betancourt and his crime gang could spot the families from a mile away, having been immigrants themselves. They would steal their bus tickets and immigration forms and tell them that they worked for ICE and had arranged a taxi cab service instead. With their contact information in hand, from their immigration forms, they would call their relatives and request a taxi fare (ransom) for $2,000. Often, the families didn’t have enough money on hand, and they would settle for hundreds of dollars less. Because the relatives were often undocumented, they would never report the crime. 

Half of the four-person gang of criminals have been sentenced, with another two co-conspirators awaiting their sentences.

Pascual Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, had already been sentenced in July to nearly 12 years in prison. Upon his release, his custody will be transferred to ICE, which will promptly deport him. Carlos Antonio Hernandez and Lucilo Cabrera have both been convicted in the extortion scheme, but are awaiting their sentences. Meanwhile, Betancourt is likely to live out his remaining days in prison.

Meanwhile, folks are pointing out the similarities between Betancourt’s crimes and Trump’s policies. 

Credit: Twitter

“Strangely enough, Trump is doing the exact same thing……” tweeted Raul A. Maestri, Jr (@itsgoodtoberaul). “Can he charge Trump with the same?” asks Justin Clay (@jclaywow32). “I hope that man was named Donald J Trump,” tweeted @LindaMadison10. Trump’s administration has seen an increase in privatization of immigrant detention facilities. The stricter the punishments placed on immigrants, the more money private detention centers receive from the federal government. 

Trump’s policies have drastically increased the number of migrants in detention and privatized detention facility political action committees like the GEO Group Inc contribute 89 percent of their political donations to Republicans.

READ: Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent

Twenty-Three Children Have Been Rescued From Kidnappers After Being Found In A House In Chiapas, Mexico

Things That Matter

Twenty-Three Children Have Been Rescued From Kidnappers After Being Found In A House In Chiapas, Mexico

Toya Sarno Jordan / Getty

The search for a two-year-old boy named Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, who went missing three weeks ago, has led to the rescue of 23 other abducted children. At the time of his kidnapping, Pérez had been with his mother in a market in Chiapas, Mexico. Surveillance video of the kidnapping showed Pérez being taken away from the market by a young girl. The video tipped off authorities to a broader scheme where children were being used to abduct other minors.

After Pérez’s disappearance, his mother and other family member began a desperate search to find him and bring him home.

Juana Pérez, the boy’s mother, traveled to Mexico City earlier this month as part of an effort to appeal to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to help find her son. Like her son, Juana speaks the Indigenous language Tzotzil. She works at the market where her son had been taken and sells produce there. Speaking with authorities investigating his case, she explained that it was customary for him to sometimes wander off to play. Kidnapping had previously never been an issue that she had heard of occurring at the market before.

In an interview with the National Palace in Mexico City, Juana said that her son was not amongst the children that had been found by authorities.

“None of the children (rescued) is my son,” Pérez said in an interview according to ABC11. “I haven’t heard anything about my son.” The outlet says Juana described her son as “a chubby, happy boy who market vendors nicknamed ‘Gordito’ and tearfully appealed for help in finding him.”

The search for Pérez continues but officials say that his kidnapping has led to the rescue of over twenty-three other abducted children.

In a statement issued by the Chiapas state prosecutors’ office, it was confirmed that the children were between the ages of 2 and 15 years old. They were found by officers in a home in the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Three infants between three and 20 months old, were also found during the raid which took place on Monday. According to the prosecutors’ office, the children “were forced through physical and psychological violence to sell handicrafts in the center of the city.” The statement added that the abducted minors showed signs of “malnutrition and precarious conditions.”

“According to the children, many of them were forced to go out on the streets to sell things, and moreover they were forced to return with a certain minimum amount of money for the right to get food and a place to sleep at the house,” state prosecutor Jorge Llaven told ABC11.
Prosecutors say the children were forced to sleep on sheets of cardboard laid out on a cement floor.

Three women have been arrested in the case and will likely face human trafficking and forced labor charges. The rescued children have been handed over to child welfare authorities while the search for Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez continues.

Florida Republican Representative Shows Off Cuban Man He Claims Is His Stepson

Things That Matter

Florida Republican Representative Shows Off Cuban Man He Claims Is His Stepson

@mattgaetz / Twitter

During a recent hearing, Representative Matt Gaetz, of Florida, was called out for not knowing the experience of raising a child of color. The comment came from Representative Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, while debating the Justice in Policing Act. The comment made Rep. Gaetz do something bizarre on social media.

Rep. Matt Gaetz wants everyone to know that he understands what it is like raising a child of color.

Recently, the House of Representatives held a hearing for the Justice in Policing Act. The act would ban chokeholds, create a misconduct registry, and mandate training against racial profiling, among other changes to national policy.

During the debate, Rep. Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, called out his Republican colleagues. Rep. Richmond claimed that the Republicans debating the bill were not in a good position to fully understand the enormity of the legislation.

“As a black male who went to a fifth-best public high school in the country, who was a victim of excessive force, who has a black son, who has worries that you all don’t,” Richmond said. “Please do not come in this committee room and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community.”

The sudden disclosure of a Cuban child that Rep. Gaetz lives with bothers some people.

Rep. Gaetz has not spoken about Nestor Galban as someone personally connected to the congressman. The sudden introduction of Galban as someone that is so closely connected to Rep. Gaetz feels opportunistic and questionable to people.

“You’re claiming you have more concern for my family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are? This is outrageous,” Rep. Gaetz retorted to Rep. Richmond.

Rep. Gaetz’s tweet does not claim to have adopted Galban but he does that he is his life.

Adoptions from Cuba to the U.S. are very rare. Most adoption attempts from the U.S. of Cuban nationals are often unsuccessful so it does not seem that Rep. Gaetz adopted Galban.

American citizens have been protesting for weeks against police brutality. The protesters are demanding a change to police policies. These policies overwhelming affect Black and brown communities. The deadly trend of police brutality has devastated these communities for decades.

That is what Rep. Richmond was saying. Some people will never fully understand the constant fear of police taking your life or the life of your loved ones. Claiming that you understand the lived experience of a community under attack does a lot of undermind their fight.

Galban has been connected to Rep. Gaetz, but never as someone close to him.

Rep. Gaetz and Galban have been in the same photo before. Every time the congressman has been near the young boy, it was usually a photo-op, like the one above. It is unclear why Rep. Gaetz kept this a secret for so long and chose to release the information as a rebuke to a colleague’s remarks.

In the end, people are upset that Rep. Gaetz would use Galban as a political prop.

Americans are demanding change from their government. The people want to see meaningful and necessary police reform to help keep communities safe.

READ: This Is What Protesters Actually Mean When They’re Calling For Cities To ‘Defund The Police’